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Head Injury Mortality Lower in Patients with Blood Alcohol

Patients admitted with low blood-alcohol levels fare better than those with no detectable alcohol

TUESDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Patients undergoing surgery for severe brain injury due to blunt head trauma may have a better outcome if they were admitted with a low to moderate blood-alcohol content than if they have no detectable alcohol, according to a report in the December issue of the Archives of Surgery.

Homer C.N. Tien, M.D., of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues conducted a retrospective study of 1,158 consecutive patients with severe brain injury from blunt head trauma to measure the effects of alcohol on in-hospital death.

Patients admitted with low to moderate blood-alcohol content, defined as 0 to less than 230 mg/dL, had an in-hospital mortality of 27.9 percent compared to 36.3 percent for those with no detectable alcohol. However, a blood-alcohol content of 230 mg/dL or higher was associated with a worse mortality than both groups, although the difference was not significant.

"There may be a role for alcohol-based resuscitation fluids in well-resuscitated patients with severe traumatic head injury," the authors write. "Alcohol may have neuroprotective effects at low and moderate doses; however, these effects are likely overshadowed at higher doses by its hemodynamic and physiologic effects."

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